American, born Lima, Peru 1984; active Memphis
Andrea Morales began working with a camera in college where she studied journalism. Drawn to photography as a tool for storytelling, she found the camera and the stories it could tell personally helpful in addressing the “perpetual anxiety” she felt speaking English as a second language. Morales was born in Peru and reared in Miami’s Little Havana. Since 2014, she’s been a documentary photographer based in Memphis, as well as a producer at the Southern Documentary Project, housed at Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Andrea is also the Visuals Director of MLK50, an online non-profit news organization. While the photos on display here relate to projects she pursued at MLK50, Morales’s work also appears regularly in the New York Times and other news publications.
Morales practices community journalism, which does not prioritize the story’s intended audience but, rather, the people in the stories. Morales carefully avoids calling people “subjects” in a photograph, and prefers to think of them as collaborators in the story they together choose to tell. She favors this approach because it allows her to develop long-term relationships leading to trust and co-investment in the story being told. Ultimately, community journalism helps to create community through shared experiences. When her work becomes, at times, overwhelmingly difficult, she summons the words of Chicago organizer Mariame Kaba, “Hope is a discipline and . . .we have to practice it every single day.”
Johnathan “Malik” Martin
American, born South Memphis, TN 1988, active Memphis
Malik Martin’s path to photojournalism is unusual and informed by various passions: sports and rock climbing, music concerts, social media, social justice, Soulsville, and superheroes, like Peter Parker (Spiderman’s alter ego). A native of South Memphis, Martin was reared by his grandmother, and began capturing his experiences with a camera as a teenager. He ran track at Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) and started creating music videos to accompany his poems. When he graduated college, he bought a tent and air mattress, and camped for six months, using the rest of his money for photographic equipment. Photographing music concerts in Memphis led to higher profile jobs: a post-concert photo he posted of football player Odell Beckham, Jr. on Instagram brought so much attention that, just one year later, his career was thriving. An independent photographer whose work appears in MLK50 and The New TriState Defender, Martin serves as the Social Media Director for the climbing gym Memphis Rox. In December, Reel Rock, a platform for climbing movies, released Black Ice, a 35-minute film about a group of South Memphians who go ice climbing in Montana. Martin served as the head cinematographer and lead producer for the film.
Like Andrea Morales, Martin is a community journalist, and avoids the idea of the “objective” reporter: “objectivity is a privilege,” he says. “The people who can say that [they are objective] are not a part of the community, they can disconnect. . . . They are photographing from the side. I feel like, you know, I go harder.”
Tad Lauritzen Wright
American, born San Angelo, TX 1972, active Memphis
Tad Lauritzen Wright’s practice is informed by undergraduate and graduate art degrees [the latter from the Memphis College of Art], and characterized by experimental approaches to painting, printmaking, sculpture, and single line drawings. A native of San Angelo, TX, Wright grew up, he says, “consuming rodeo, punk rock, Playboy, cheap beer, shotguns, cartoons, farm trucks, skateboarding, Mexican border towns, and junkyard culture” [his grandfather owned a junkyard]. While his mother listened only to The Carpenters on an 8-track tape in the car, and his parents enjoyed country music records at home, Wright sought alternative forms of music, creating his own instruments out of cardboard, nets, fishing line, and also farm equipment that he would hang from nearby mesquite trees.
As he grew older, he discovered Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim’s iconic 1936 fur-lined teacup, a strange and jarring object. Later, he encountered the seemingly child-like works of French artist Jean Dubuffet, and realized from these two artists encounters that there could be a space for his own work, which favors “discounted sources,” “basic ideas, simple plans, and rigorous daydreaming.”
Single-line drawings are a through line of Wright’s career, loosely time-based games that start simply, and grow in complexity, while involving constant risk along the way. Perhaps the ultimate inspiration for Wright’s drawings derives from childhood scrawls he drew underneath his parents’ coffee table as a child. He continues to celebrate the crudeness and distortions of children’s art and the quality of freshness and spontaneity in them that suggest some kind of authentic truth.